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The Rundown: March 8, 2014

Frank Martin’s Suspension & Coaching in College Sports

I must admit that there were times when I wondered where former Kansas State head coach Frank Martin ended up. I remember his fiery demeanor and the kind of attitude you didn’t want to cross – the closest thing to an amalgamation of Bob Knight and Vince McMahon.

Seriously - just look at him.

Seriously – just look at him.

Then word gets out about Martin, now head coach at South Carolina, being suspended for the final game of the regular season for using profanity while publicly berating a player late in a recent blowout loss to No. 1 Florida.

Can’t say I’m too surprised. After all, his reputation does precede him. He has had incidents in the past dealing with his temper aimed at college players. Take this 2010 episode, for example, where Martin publicly apologized after hitting one of his players in the arm during a regular season game.

Martin’s press conference, immediately after the on-court incident, was typical for someone with a history of anger issues. Not to say that his words were empty, or that I, personally, don’t believe that he is trying to change his ways. While some could argue that his methods are just examples of “tough love” to his players on the sidelines, many others could look at Martin’s style as archaic – possibly to the level of bullying.

We have to admit, that we are now living in a different age – one where the public perception of yelling and berating coaching styles are vilified, if not at least frowned upon. Imagine if a Bob Knight coached in this generation’s social climate. There would be no way he could get away with any of the things he got away with a generation or two ago.

But then again, it wasn’t that long ago – four years ago, in fact – when Martin’s coaching methods were lauded, as he led his Kansas State teams to the NCAA Tournament year in and year out. That incident I mentioned earlier? It happened in a year in which the Wildcats earned a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance, and reached the Elite Eight.

So what to make of this? The answer isn’t really that simple. After all, Martin’s methods of coaching don’t seem to be working with this particular squad of players, currently 11-19 on the year. Then again, I can’t say which methods of coaching are tried and true. Just look at the 2010 Kansas State Wildcats.

But Martin’s style obviously isn’t working with these Gamecocks, no matter what you make of it.

An Exercise in Hypotheticals: Kawakami’s “Who To Replace Harbaugh?”

For many 49ers fans who bought into the idea (or still do) – myself included – the last couple weeks have been troubling, to say the least. First, there was the report that the 49ers contacted the Browns about a trade for head coach Jim Harbaugh. Then there were the various leaks that Harbaugh had irreconcilable differences with GM Trent Baalke. And let’s not forget the reports that even his own players were tired of Harbaugh’s schtick.

While Harbaugh has denied all reports that he would be leaving the 49ers under any circumstances, the question still lingers. After all, he’s on the fourth year of his 5-year, $25 million contract. If he does not reach an extension in the next two years, there is a chance he could leave the bay behind.

I think it’s safe to say that 99% of 49ers fans would rather swim to Alcatraz and back than watch the best coach they’ve had since George Siefert walk away due to personnel – or personal – issues.


Let’s just say he DID leave the 49er Empire. While the nation would mourn, a coach would still need to be named. So, who would be the best fit to be his successor?

Well, it seems Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News tackled the question. While he ran through a few likely (and unlikely) scenarios, he offered a short list of candidates the 49ers would consider to replace the lauded (and loud) Harbaugh. Among them were some interesting names, which I will comment on as follows:

1) Jim Tomsula, 49ers Defensive Line Coach. He was interim head coach in 2010 after the 49ers fired Mike Singletary. He is respected in the coaching staff. I, for one, wouldn’t mind this move.

2) Vic Fangio, 49ers Defensive Coordinator. He leads one of the best defenses in the league, and it would be a great move to ensure he doesn’t get poached by a basement-dwelling franchise. It would be interesting to see.

Assistant coaches Vic Fangio (left) and Jim Tomsula could smoothly step into the 49ers head coaching position if absolutely necessary.

Assistant coaches Vic Fangio (left) and Jim Tomsula could smoothly step into the 49ers head coaching position if absolutely necessary.

3) David Shaw, Stanford Head Coach. He shares the same success with the Cardinal in common with Harbaugh. But could lightning strike a THIRD time dipping into the Stanford well? This is a hesitant “yes” for me.

4) Jon Gruden, ESPN NFL Analyst. He was a great head coach when he stepped in for an old one (just ask Tampa Bay). I could envision him doing the same thing for the 49ers – even if it is a dozen years after the last time he did it. After all, SF has the same kind of team as the ’02 Bucs – budding offense, stellar defense.

5) Bill Cowher, CBS NFL Analyst. Intriguing choice from all the retired future hall-of-famers. Coached the Steelers (again, like Gruden, with a similar team to the 49ers) to two Super Bowl appearances. I would be gung-ho for this, if the situation was right – and we’ve exhausted all other options.

6) Pete Carroll, Seahawks Head Coach. How hilarious would THIS be? Sure, I hate his guts as head coach of Seattle. But if he did consider San Francisco in 2015, I can’t say I wouldn’t love it. God help me. (Just to clarify, though – this is the most improbable of all scenarios. And chasing Carroll would most likely be a ploy to poke at Harbaugh into a new contract.)

It All Comes Down To This: SDSU vs. UNM Preview

The San Diego State Aztecs of 2013-2014 teased the nation with the kind of start that looked similar to their 2010-2011 season – one in which they only lost three times on their way to a Sweet 16 loss to eventual NCAA Champion Connecticut.

It was that team that boasted elite players like D.J. Gay, Jamaal Franklin and Kawhi Leonard. Despite their massive success, they could not defeat their main rival at the time – the BYU Cougars, led by Jimmer Fredette – during the regular season.

It is interesting to note that this year’s Aztecs – led by Player of the Year candidate Xavier Thames – face a similar situation later today, in the form of the New Mexico Lobos. Despite their 26-3 record and ranking of No. 10 in the country, San Diego State must defeat a Lobos team led by Cameron Bairstow, who they fell to by 14 in only two weeks before.

Today's matchup between San Diego State and New Mexico may hinge on their best players: UNM's Cameron Bairstow (left) and SDSU's Xavier Thames.

Today’s matchup between San Diego State and New Mexico may hinge on their best players: UNM’s Cameron Bairstow (left) and SDSU’s Xavier Thames.

That’s not even considering the fact that the Lobos, two-time defending regular season champions of the Mountain West, have an identical 14-2 record with San Diego State.

It’s the very definition of “Winner Take All”.

Well, at least in the sense that the winner takes the MWC regular season title, and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.

But, in another sense, this could be the showcase for Bairstow, the Senior Australian prospect from Brisbane, and Thames, the local Senior product of Sacramento, California. Both have been on the radar of NBA scouts, and their prospects may be in the first round in 2014. While they play at different positions, the winner of his matchup may have a leg up in both the NCAA Tournament, and on draft prospect lists.

In any case, this final regular season matchup will pit the two best teams of the Mountain West – a conference still fighting for sustained legitimacy in NCAA basketball. For these two schools, a conference title is on the line. But for the conference at large, the future of the MWC, with a possible place in the upper echelon of college basketball, may also be on the line.

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